The government has committed to moving ahead and implementing revised Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) legislation, in spite of pushback from some quarters.
This comes as trade union Solidarity published an “Impact Study” detailing what would need to happen in South Africa’s economy to make the government’s new BEE targets a reality.
Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma last week said B-BBEE laws needed to be transformational instead of transactional.
Dlamini-Zuma noted the importance of economic empowerment of black South Africans and encouraged large organisations to participate in sustainable B-BBEE initiatives.
“Until the paradox of rich Africa, poor Africans is resolved, there will be more, not less, broad-based black economic empowerment,” she said.
“The relatively peaceful transition to democracy is generally lauded as a major victory in the struggle for racial equality and an exemplary post-conflict transition towards a disaggregated society.”
Dlamini Zuma was speaking in Johannesburg during a ministerial discussion at the Deloitte Sustainability Summit Africa on the importance of sustainable B-BBEE implementation by the private sector.
BEE Chamber chief support officer Yuneal Padayachy emphasised that the principal objectives of B-BBEE are to promote economic transformation and enable meaningful participation of black people in the South African economy.
Padayachy said they were trying to put across the message of a move away from transactional towards transformational BEE, as well as changing the mindsets of individuals about BEE.
“When you think about transformation in South Africa, a lot of people have this misconception that it’s taking from one and giving to the other, corrupt activities and so on,” he said.
“It’s not about that. It’s about how best you can bring black people into the economy in a sustainable manner.”
A number of stakeholders who participated in the discussions decried how BEE was still being used as a “tick-box exercise” that never materialised in any meaningful transformation.
Nomaswazi Shabangu, president of the SA Women Lawyers Association (Sawla), said women were at the bottom of the food chain when it came to empowerment opportunities.
Shabangu said their commitment as Sawla was to advance the transformation agenda and push for gender equality for women in the legal fraternity.
“Unfortunately, we are still facing challenges that our women faced 100 years ago. Women lawyers are still faced with skewed briefing patterns. Even in the Constitutional Court, how many times have we seen women representing our government or the corporate sector? It’s only men,” Shabangu said.
“We’ve got a development fund that we have established to train women so they can compete in all spheres of the law. However, we don’t have money. We also depend on [donor] funding.”
AgriBEE Charter Council deputy chairperson Ndivhuho Phungo said businesses had to embrace a radical shift and change their mindset when it came to BEE’s transformational goals.
“We have come to realise that although compliance comes at a cost to measured entities and those that participate, there is more value to be derived from complying with BEE that far outweighs the cost involved. And businesses are warming up to this,” Phungo said.
“Some businesses have attested to the fact that now their incomes have tripled, sometimes quadrupled. You have today a whole new industry of beneficiation agencies, of auditors, just to audit BEE. So there is a lot of job creation that came with this thing.”
Meanwhile, B-BBEE was last week identified as one of South Africa’s anti-growth strategies by the independent policy research organisation Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE).
CDE executive director Ann Bernstein said B-BBEE and localisation were two government policies that have inhibited growth, though they were aimed at economic transformation.
“Products designated for local procurement are generally more expensive or of a lower quality relative to possible imports (which is why local products are not chosen on their own merits), while BBBEE has raised the costs of doing business and introduced new uncertainties that affect investment plans,” she said.